It all began as I was listening to Jason Newsted’s mesmerizing bass solo recently. In a Eureka moment, my misgivings on the world of rock and its sibling variants came welling up to the surface.
Ever since gangs of rebellious mavericks substituted weapons with guitars and made the stage their homes, the rock world has hosted magnificent happenings. Beneath the cacophony, lay buried the prospect of great excitement; of waking up to devastating news of some rock maven dying dramatically.
Unable to remember an act of brilliant rock showmanship in recent times, I journeyed through history, covering the 2000s without an interruption. Unimpressed by a handful in the 90s, my search for the last notable rock bands met with success in the 80s. What had happened over the past decade or two?
Normally, when in doubt, I listen to my heart…and then paddle through the world of numbers, for some fun. Only on rare occasions has this exercise ended uneventfully.
Here’s a timeline of rock star deaths.
Source: Wikipedia, various
Rock stars are living longer and longer and longer, with the passage of time.
Whatever happened to The Code of Immortality; Live flamboyantly and die tragically. There was a time when expiration due to natural causes was a sacrilege, reducing a rock star’s social standing. Herculean tragedies that repeatedly befell the head-bangers of the 60s, 70s and 80s seem to have progressively given way to mellow chaps who have decided against dying in spectacularly bombastic, news-grabbing fashion. Advances in medicine have succeeded in arresting the frequent and abrupt failures of rocker hearts, livers, intestines, kidneys and brains. But suicides, which have no correlation to advances in science, have inexplicably reduced too, quite sadly.
I remember sadness enveloping me in its melancholic embrace when I learned about the tragic deaths of guitarist extraordinaire, Cliff Burton and Dimebag Darell. Kurt Cobain chose blowing up to fading away, even after initial unsuccessful dalliances with suicide. The shotgun blast, which ended his misery, also blew the lid off mass mourning. Fans were devastated across the globe, drowning in an ocean of tears; some human, some crocodile. But it immortalised the man and his band. Music aficionados suddenly discovered soulfulness in his voice, after his passing.
For rock-fan numbers to grow over time, periodic deaths are as imperative as drugs and breathing. While Cobain burned out instead of fading away, Nirvana did the opposite. Metallica has been on the wane as they haven’t had a significant casualty since the death of Cliff Burton in 1986. Dave Mustaine has been reminding the world of Megadeth for years without caring to pay true homage to his band’s nomenclature. Likewise, for Slayer and a slew of other death metal mavens that are the biggest oxymoronic offenders of them all. As a rule, the more dangerous-sounding band names frequently witness few or no casualties. Cannibal Corpse, Anthrax, S.O.D et al are all alive and well.
An absence of unnatural, untimely and unplanned bereavements over two decades is a cardinal sin, condemning rock bands to oblivion.
Probably there is little to rebel and whine about today than 20 years ago. That is a tough line to argue for, though.
So, rock bands, here’s a roadmap to rip-ass numbers, regenerating gravitas and, ultimately, fiery album sales. Pick a man. Choose one (or more) of the following. High-rises. Bullet trains. Lethal injections. Drug overdoses. Or – the age-old method for assured posthumous immortality – pick up a gun and let the brains feel the heat of the sun.